As with all construction trades, plumbing's tasks fit into the broad categories of rough work and finish work. Construction professionals describe projects as progressing in phases and plumbing's rough and finish phases loosely coincide with the rough and finish phases of other trades, such as carpentry and electrical. For example, a carpenter's framing remains exposed during the rough carpentry phase, allowing other trades to complete rough phases by routing components through the wall's cavities. Whether you're working on a plumbing project or supervising plumbers, an understanding of the plumber's timeline allows you to follow and understand standard practices.
Rough plumbing generally consists of routing pipes through wall cavities, running vent stacks to the roof and connecting drain lines and water supply lines to sewer systems, septic systems or main water supply valves. However, many plumbers also participate in excavation and lay underground pipes that run from utility connections to a primary structure. In a structure's interior, plumbers measure, mark and lay out pipes' paths on framing materials and create access holes with power tools. For water supply systems, plumbers frequently install soldered copper pipes. For drain, waste and vent systems, plumbers generally install plastic ABS pipe or cast-iron pipe. After "roughing-in" drain and water supply systems, plumbers seal open pipes with caps and test the systems for leaks.
The term "finish plumbing" typically refers to work that occurs after interior finishing, such as drywall or plaster. During the finish plumbing phase, plumbers remove the caps on drain and water supply pipes and install undersink drain assemblies, water supply valves and water supply lines. Additionally, plumbers connect drain and water supply lines to plumbing fixtures, such as sinks, toilets and tubs. Other tasks performed during the finish phase include caulking and sealing around plumbing fixtures and testing new connections.
Rough-In Tools and Materials
Plumbers use both hand tools and power tools to cut and join pipes during rough-in. To cut copper, plumbers commonly use a manual tubing cutter. Plumbers clean copper with wire brushes or a special sandpaper called emery cloth and solder copper with a cleaning compound called flux, a handheld torch and solder. To cut drain, waste and vent lines, plumbers use chop saws or handheld hack saws. Plumbers join plastic pipes with a glue-like, solvent cement and typically join cast iron pipes with mechanical fittings. Routing and securing pipes within house framing requires a variety of cutting and drilling tools, including reciprocating saws, power drills and circular saws.
Finish Plumbing Tools and Materials
In addition to the tools used for rough plumbing, finish plumbing requires tools that twist and tighten drain assemblies, water supply components and plumbing fixture parts. Common finish plumbing tools include various wrenches, such as box wrenches, pipe wrenches and adjustable wrenches. Additionally, plumbers carry a comprehensive set of screwdrivers and other general purpose tools to complete finish plumbing tasks.